Matthew Logan Vasquez: Light’n Up

Matthew Logan Vasquez Light'n Up album cover

Matthew Logan Vasquez
Light’n Up
(Dine Alone)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The title of singer-songwriter Matthew Logan Vasquez’s third solo album is a self-deprecating poke at himself. These reflective, but not always heavy, tracks were written during a demanding period in the Delta Spirit frontman’s life. His wife and their child uprooted from their Texas home and relocated to Oslo so she could care for her dad suffering from Alzheimer’s. That left him alone with thoughts of loneliness, fear of change and other internal struggles, many of which he channeled into these nine tunes.

The opening acoustic picking of “Ballad In My Bed” and introspective lyrics of missing his wife (“Sometimes you’re with me, sometimes you’re gone’) prepares the listener for a melancholy ride. That vibe quickly dissipates as Vasquez explodes into the tough, Springsteen-styled rocker “Trailer Park,” with its angry lyrics of “All the people fit the same damn description / They’re all well-armed, Jesus voted,” a sarcastic refutation of the chorus “I’m so happy in my trailer park.” The title “I Love My Boy” and words “My little baby is home but I’m not” don’t need explanation, but Vasquez adds accordion to this sorrowful piano ballad which helps lighten the load.  

The chiming guitars of the Tom Petty-styled “Ghost Writers” distract us from the lyrics “I’m headed for the other side of living/ No more struggles just slide away” that imply suicidal thoughts. The tough, riff-rocking “Vacation” cranks the guitars as Vasquez sings “All this tropical weather is making me feel ill … Take me dad I wanna go home now,” clearly not enjoying himself on the titular holiday. In “Poor Kids,” he also references growing up as someone who found solace in the church where he “… liked the music but I didn’t like the word” over a brooding pop ballad. Vasquez’s anger and frustration is on display with “You told them all I might be crazy/ You may be right but you made me this way,” in the self-descriptive “Character Assassination” as female vocals echo the chorus and low-key horns underpin the ballad.

If difficult times yield some of our finest, most personal work, then Matthew Logan Vasquez has a head start. He has since moved to join his family as he explains in “Oslo,” calling himself “Another expat on the run.” Maybe crafting this somewhat unsettling material has helped him come to terms with a few years he would like to forget, even if they have provided him with an album’s worth of moving, emotional, and occasionally bitter songs elevated by Vasquez’s musical talent and passion ignited by trying circumstances.